Today, on top of going to a traditional agency for offline projects and an interactive agency for online initiatives, many brands are seeking out several agencies with specific expertise in certain areas. Because of this, the problem of consistency and coordination becomes greater than your interactive agency playing nicely with your traditional ad agency. Just as it is difficult getting your internal teams to coordinate efforts and speak the same language, getting your agencies to play nicely can be a challenge-- but one worth undertaking.
You spend a lot of money to get the best agencies, but maximizing your marketing efforts is impossible to do well if the agencies don't work well together.
Let’s look at your interactive agencies specifically. Say you have one agency that produces your website/landing page design and development, another which provides email marketing strategy, design and execution and a third that creates and coordinates your online advertising. The email is connected to the landing page, the landing page is connected to the online ad, and everything is connected to the website. You get the drift.
So how do you keep the agencies managing these all on the same page and continuing to create content that works well together, communicates the same brand message and meets your overall business goals?
It is likely that your brand is increasingly devoting budget to online marketing initiatives. Creating an online style guide is the first step to ensuring these initiatives are well aligned with and properly reflect your overall brand.
Your style guide can vary depending upon the size of your organization and the sophistication of your marketing department, but at a minimum it should specify rules around items such as:
- font (html and images with type)
- image treatment
- content block treatment (specifically defining headers, table row data format)
- most importantly-- how your brand identity should be used in different online channels (website/intranets, emails, banners, mobile, et cetera).
If your agencies need to collaborate and work within the same files, then you may also consider defining naming conventions, global CSS usage and even directory structure.
Depending on your budget and level of complexity you can easily distribute your style guide via PDF. However, if budgets allow, creating a micro-site and keeping it updated can ensure not only the agencies and your organization are well informed, but more importantly the production resources can reference and search for what they need via the web more easily.
Don't forget that in this game, you are in control. The mechanics and integration on your side are just as important as that of the agencies you hire. Consider the people on your end who will manage projects and make them run smoothly. It is extremely important that you hire the right people for your team.
Believe it or not, your internal team can play a large part in eliminating turf wars between agencies. I know of one well-known Fortune 500 company that makes the experience of managing multiple vendors part of the hiring criteria for new employees. Hiring employees that are good at managing vendors can be as critical as anything else because agencies don’t typically want to work together. They want all of your business. Don’t forget-- it’s about the bottom line for them, too.
And don’t be afraid to take the same principle and apply it to your reference check on each agency. When you call former or current clients for insight into the agency, ask if the agency worked with other agencies on projects. Some other questions to ask:
- How did the projects go? Were they seamless and easy?
- Did they play well together?
- Was there a blame game or problems with one trying to take all the credit?
- Were deadlines met or affected?
- What kind of things held up projects or caused delays?
In addition, ask to see an integrated project that they did work on together. Often they will all say how they are good to work with, but it’s about what is produced. There's a chance that they could have been great to work with, but no one was driving the project forward so their projects just fizzled and everyone got paid. That’s a great working relationship-- for the agencies.